The court has directed the next hearing of the matter on February 16.

Why cant you amend Abkari Policy SC asks Kerala on exempting toddy from liquor ban
news Law Friday, January 26, 2018 - 07:40
Written by  IANS

The Supreme Court on Thursday asked Kerala why it can’t amend its Abkari Policy to take out toddy from the list of alcoholic beverages as the state sought toddy's exemption from the ban on liquor shops along national highways.

"Why can't you amend" the Abkari policy, asked Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justice AM Khanwilkar and Justice DY Chandrachud as senior counsel V Giri argued that toddy was a traditional drink.

Appearing for the Kerala government, Giri said: "Several thousand employees are dependent on toddy tapping. It is a traditional employment for them. It has been there for the last 70 years." 

Describing toddy as a mild alcoholic drink, Giri told the bench that toddy can't be compared with other hard drinks.

The Kerala government told the court that it was facing difficulties in relocating the shops affected by the top court order on account of the rules mandating certain distance between toddy shops.

Besides this, toddy shops can't be located near educational institutions and other places. In all, 520 shops have been affected by the highway ban order, it said.

The top court's suggestion to amend the Abkari Policy came during the hearing of the petitions by Toddy Shop Licensee Association and Vaikom Taluk Chethuthozhilali.

The petitioners contended that the issue before the court when it prohibited the liquor shops within 500 metres on either side of the national highways was that of drunken driving and not alcohol per se.

Appearing for the Toddy Shops Licensee Association, senior counsel Raju Ramachandran said the court order banning liquor shops on national highways does not give the definition of alcohol as the concept of liquor was not before it.

The court was told that there were no drunken driving cases because of toddy drinking.

As the court wanted to know the distance that separated toddy shops from each other, it directed the next hearing of the matter on February 16.